Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Clearing

by Ryan Harper

Each morning walk reminds Elijah he forgets
how many trees grow in his town—how covered, groved,
and leaved the passages, the hiking trails, the yards.
Always he starts early enough to be almost
alone in the morning, sharing passages and paths
only with the joggers, the bodies he has come
to know as well as voiceless passing will allow:
the man who wears shorts all year round, the small
flourescent woman he supposes is his age
who breathes like an alarm clock—A in summer, B

or B flat in winter.  In autumn he slides to the side of the trail,
the thorny side, when he hears someone striding through
the leaves, predicting who’s approaching from behind
by the pace, the running foot’s brush stroke.  Your ear is strange,
Lorraine had told him when he noted in passing one day
the small caesura in her breathing as they lay
in bed.  He was the first to notice.  He forgets
to think about the thickness of the growth, each walk,
until he finds himself in the clearing in the midst
of the pine grove north of his house some half a mile.  The light

falls on him as new despite his daily visitations,
despite his knowing this is the open space at which
his usual trail ends—grassy, warm, nothing to hear.
Routinely lit with absence, remembering shadows, here
Elijah looks up—only when there is nothing
to see except a blue vacuum, an ancient sun
that will not be engaged directly, and scabs—
white vapor trails flaking from flights that may as well
be all departing.  Every morning, Elijah stops,
weeps here a moment in full light, then turns around,
walks back through the grove, listening behind him for footsteps.

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